Saturday, December 31, 2011

Official New Champion

         So I mentioned in an earlier post that our bitch, Casey (Ch Chateau Palos Kansas City Jazz Singer) finished her championship in November. I posted a photo, too. And now, because it's not official in the dog world until you get the win photo back from the photographer, I'm posting the Official Win Photo of Casey.

New Champion

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Things to do in Normandy when You're a Dog

Since I've been doing chicken-themed posts, I'll share another poultry story. Then maybe I'll stop for awhile.
A few years ago, during a long-term stay in Paris, we got the mid-winter blues decided that a little fresh sea air would be just the thing to cure the general grumpiness, so we went for a weekend in Normandy. We stayed at a 13th century fortified farm in the countryside near Bayeux called Ferme de la Rançonnière.  It’s near the towns of Bayeux (home of the Bayeux Tapestry) and Arromanches (Gold Beach from the D-Day landings), if you fancy a little touristing.
Pooka, our dog, was perhaps the most grateful member of the party at la Rançonnière. He disliked apartment life, and it had been more than a month since he'd been able to run off lead.   
La Rançonnière, besides being charming and possessing a lovely restaurant, also has a large fenced yard in back of the main hall with a little chicken house in the center. 

This is the chicken house
When we got in Friday afternoon, we took Pooka out in the yard so he could run. We failed, however, to notice that the fence around the chicken house was open on 2 sides. Pooka, extremely happy to be off leash and on grass, found some mole trails and spent a pleasant 15 minutes exploring them. 
Oh look! There's another one over there!
One of the trails took him quite near the chicken house, and, having never met a chicken before, he trotted over to investigate.
Consternation among the birds! Squawking, flapping, and random heedless galloping. And because they’re chickens, and thus dumber than a cubic yard of gravel, they ran not into the relative safety of the chicken house, but out into the yard.
How could a dog resist that? Pooka went after the chickens, who were shouting, "Help! Help! Murder! Barbarians!" I went after Pooka, shouting, "No! Leave it!"
We zigged and zagged across the lawn, squawking and shouting, and finally, the dog who can't catch a squirrel or rabbit (much to my disappointment) got him a mouthful of chicken. I had a panicked vision of myself presenting a bloody chicken carcass to the owners with my deepest apologies and a wad of euros, followed by a quick, inglorious retreat to a different hotel entirely (preferably chickenless).
Thank goodness Pooka's Killer Instinct wiring is faulty. He neglected to catch the hen by the neck, opting instead for a wing grab. A bit of poultry yelling, some flapping, some flopping, and Pooka was left with only a mouthful of feathers, while the hen escaped with her life, if not her dignity, and faded into a nearby hedge.
K watched the whole show with a great deal of merriment. And of course after that, Pooka was always leashed and kept at a distance from the chickens. 
They still shouted, "Help, help! Huns! Visigoths! Murder!" and ran around like...well, you know...when they saw him.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Non-random Mystery Christmas Tree

Every year, in the park where the dogs and I walk, someone decorates one of the small blue spruces:

The purple ribbon up top says, "Charlie." Who is Charlie?

I don't know who does it or what the significance is, but I always look forward to seeing it.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

The Floydyssey (Part Four)

Now, what was it that I was looking for?
(This image is ©Nancy Banks,
and can't be used without her written consent.)

Previously on this blog, Floyd was bitten, plucked alive, denied a sweater, and given sound veterinary advice. Now the healing starts.

The Floydyssey
Part Four

Floyd’s bruises slowly faded,
and we got to be quite friendly over the weeks.
I changed her litter every day,
and she hobbled around the utility room while I
shredded more newspaper for her.
I talked to her;
she talked back,
with that low, purring cluck
that chickens use
when they feel okay
their world.

But as soon as her feathers grew back,
Floyd got restless.
She still limped, but she got around pretty well,
and I'd take her outside
for constitutionals.
She'd gimp around, looking everywhere
For something she had apparently lost,
and she stopped talking to me.

So eventually I took her back up the hill
to the coop and her kind,
and she realized that it was her flock that she'd misplaced.
She was pleased 
to finally find it.

And because this is a
story about a
and not a dog or even a cat,
Floyd forgot me.
She didn't recognize me when I fed and watered everybody
or when I collected her eggs.
She ignored me when I talked to her.

I think it was
the feathers.
When she was down to just skin,
the differences between us
didn't seem so huge.
But when she had her feathers back,
she was a bird again,
and I

As for Shorty, well,
there's a saying in my family
that the unjust
punish themselves.

One Sunday when we were out running errands,
He tunneled under the fence,
squeezed out,
and tried to herd a car
that was going 50 mph.
It was a glorious

No one really mourned him,
especially Floyd.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The Floydyssey (Part Three)

This is not a good color for a naked chicken.

(This image is ©Nancy Banks,
and can't be used without her written consent.)

Previously on this blog, Floyd the chicken, wounded and risking cannibalism if she stayed with the other chickens, took up residence in a temporary shelter, where she was plucked alive by a dog no one liked. Alas, her travails are not yet over.

The Floydyssey
Part Three
The next morning when I checked on her,
her skin was green.
I had invested a lot of effort in saving her life,
and she repaid me by getting gangrene.

Treating gangrene was far beyond my poultry medical skills.

I couldn’t just let her suffer horribly and die slowly,
which meant I’d have to kill her,
after all that we'd been through

(You have to understand
I'm terrible at killing things.
Me putting something out of its misery
involves much misery on both sides,
and therefore
does not actually qualify as
stopping the misery.)

Before I put Floyd's head on the block, though,
I called the vet as a last resort.
I got the vet assistant on the line
and told her the whole story.
She said,
in her I’ve heard it all, and chickens with gangrene do not
disturb my calm professionalism voice,
“let me ask the doctor,” and she put me on hold,
with nary even a giggle. 
I was on hold for a very long time—
long enough
for her to repeat the story,
for the vet to collapse in gales of laughter,
and for him to call in all his colleagues
and have her retell the story for them while they all howled with laughter.
We are talking about a chicken here. 
Something you're supposed to eat, not nurse back to health from a state of 
involuntary pluckedness.

When the assistant got back on the line,
her voice was remarkable steady as she
that perhaps Floyd's skin was green from bruising.
I've never received a doctor's diagnosis
with a greater sense of relief.

Floyd should have been doubly relieved,
but she was a chicken, and she took each thing as it came,
including nakedness
and full-body bruising.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

The Floydyssey (Part Two)

Naked chicken. Sweater. At the time, it seemed
like a good idea….

(This image is ©Nancy Banks,
and can't be used without her written consent.)

Previously on this blog, I told you about Floyd, the wounded chicken. Yet more trauma awaits her:

The Floydyssey
Part Two

Floyd was okay for the weekend at least.
The dogs stayed in the house with us.
So Saturday morning I put Floyd in the dogs’ house with some fresh straw,
and she built a nest  
while I built her
a nice temporary pen
with a nesting box
under our second-story deck.

It was very cold work.

Monday came and I retrieved Floyd from the doghouse,
put her in her temporary pen,
fluffed her straw,
closed the pen up tight,
turned the dogs out into the yard for the morning,
and headed into town to work.

It was freezing cold.

When I got home and let the grateful dogs into the warm house,
I noticed I was missing
the smallest, least likable
member of the pack. 

I opened the back door and
called for Shorty.
I called again.
No Shorty.
I was puzzled.
He was
where the other dogs were,
trying to steal their goodies and commandeer their beds and bite them
when they weren’t expecting it. 

I put my coat back on and went out into the yard
to look for him.

I finally found him,
in Floyd's pen,
reclining entirely at his ease in her nest box,
Around him were scattered
of Floyd's feathers.
Floyd herself
cowered in the farthest corner of the pen,
stark naked. 

There was surprisingly little blood.

I didn’t even yell at Shorty—
the magnitude of his crime struck me dumb.
As did the fact that Floyd was still alive
I zipped her into my jacket
and went inside,
followed joyfully by Shorty,
who seemed to think the chicken rodeo
would be continued in warmer climes.

what to do with Floyd?
She couldn’t stay outside;
she was naked.

I couldn’t put her in the garage even though Shorty wasn’t allowed in it—
it was unheated
and she was naked.

But the basement offered
the dogs never went down there.
So that’s where she went,
wrapped in a towel so she'd stay warm.

I considered knitting her a sweater but
had my only flash of sanity in this entire episode
and instead
found a cardboard box
and shredded a bunch of newspaper into it.
I rubbed her down with salve,
put her in the box
with a bowl of water and another of mash,
and set the whole shebang by a heat vent. She acted surprisingly grateful,
for a chicken.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

The Floydyssey (Part One)

Floyd, Floyd, and Floyd
(This image is ©Nancy Banks,
and can't be used without her written consent.)

           I've been reading much these days about how hip and green and all things good and right it is to have backyard chickens. Well, as the song says, I was poultry when poultry wasn't cool. Back in the day, K and I kept chickens, not because they were hip and green and good and right, but because they were tasty.
            And truly, chickens = hipness and goodness is an equation that I don’t have the subtlety to understand. Because I always think of hipness and goodness as pretty much the opposite of stench, poop, and cannibalism—all of which I associate very strongly with chickens.
            Don’t misunderstand me; I loved our birds, but as K says, they’re just lizards with feathers. He also claims that you’re doing them a favor when you butcher them. I've seen bored hens facing a long winter commit atrocities upon their fellows that I won't describe, just in case tender-hearted souls are reading this, so I have never had qualms about the butchering part. Plus, yard-raised chickens? Yum!
            I say all this, and I sound quite tough and old-country and next thing you know I'll be castrating calves with my teeth, but I harbor a guilty secret—Floyd, the naked chicken who lived in our basement one winter while I nursed her back to health.
It gets worse. 
I wrote an epic poem about her. In four parts. With illustrations.
And because I have no shame (at least, not so's you'd notice), I’m going to share it right here live and in person. Ahem.

 The Floydyssey (an epic poem in four parts)
Part One

Floyd was just an ordinary Cornish/Rock cross hen.
(And she was not as
cross as some of our hens,
although you couldn't call her affectionate, either.) 

She had survived the chopping block by luck--
butchering, as you know, is a tiring process.
We had done ours over several weekends,
and finally it got too cold,
and K was tired of killing chickens,
and so several of the hens
received a reprieve.
I named them all Floyd.

This was the winter that we were in a Friday night
bowling league.
Since we both worked in town,
we went straight from work to bowling,
which meant that we didn't close up the chicken coop
till we got home.

One Friday night in February, when
I went up the hill to close the coop, 

I found the
all over
the landscape--ambulatory, fortunately.

The coyote that got into the coop was too slow
to catch any,
although he did wound one--Floyd.
She had a puncture wound
about the size of a nickel
on her thigh.

I put everybody back in the coop
and closed it up tight
and went to bed
worrying about Floyd.
Our egg birds, the Barred Rocks, were
easily bored during the winter. 

They beguiled the long cold days
by eating
their sister Floyds.

I'd already had one cannibalized Floyd,
and I knew Floyd's wound was an invitation
for bad behavior.
I wondered here to put her until her wound healed.

I couldn't put her in with the geese, because
they liked to chase the chickens,
and, with her bum leg, Floyd couldn't run away from them.

We were having a very cold spell,
so I couldn't put Floyd in the dog run
and let her
roost in the doghouse--
the dogs needed to get in their house to keep warm,
and I knew they wouldn't if there was a chicken living there.

Surprize, our Giant Schnauzer, was scared to death of chickens,
and Loki, our Standard Schnauzer, I think disapproved of their personal habits.

We had a new dog, Shorty
(a stray perhaps Bichon Frise that, with more compassion than good sense,
I'd picked up on the highway),
whose views on chickens had not yet been aired,
but who was irascible about
except Milk Bones.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

New Spa in the Neighborhood

          K is a bless-the-beasts-and-children kind of guy, so it's not surprising that he came home from his most recent trip to the bird seed store and set this up on our back deck:

          What is it? It is a heated bird bath. Because you know how much birds hate to splash around in frigid water in the winter.
          It took a few days, but the Feathered Ones discovered it:

          So now we're the first ones in our neighborhood to have a bird day spa.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Pie Redux

          Can we talk about pie? Again?
          Of course we can! Pie is the perfect conversation topic: it is delicious, widely varied, and inspiring of great partisanship (fruit or cream? Pumpkin or sweet potato? Lemon meringue or coconut cream?) and amusing stories of failure.
          I'm thinking about pie again* because I just read this in the editor's note in the November 2011 Cooking Light: "Lord, there is a heap of tragic pie in America—sad pie, lonely pie, befuddled pie. I've had pie so bad I think the pie laws were broken."
          Aside from the fact that this quote sounds like the beginning of a really great country-and-western song, and that "Tragic Pie" would be a great name for a grunge band, I heard my spiritual calling in those words.
          Yes, my friends, I can help you de-sadden, de-lonelify, de-fuddle—in short, de-tragic your pie.
          Because I have the Pie Laws.
          Easier to follow than the Ten Commandments—also shorter—the pie laws can help you—yes you! right there in front, in the yellow shirt with annoyingly large grey stripes—de-tragic your pies and improve your life!

          Herewith Nancy's Pie Laws for De-tragicking Pie:
               1. Ice water. Not cold water—ice water.
               2. Use enough ice water (one-quarter cup for one cup of flour; one-half cup for two cups).
               3. Cold butter. If you use lard (and why would you?), I can't help you. Shortening, ditto.
               4. A pastry cutter.
               5. Once it's been made, keep the dough chilled.

          See, short and sweet.
          And now the commentary: 1. Put ice cubes in your water and swirl them around to get the water properly chilled, then measure it. I'm serious as death about this. In order for the crust to be flaky, the butter has to stay as cold as possible. Use tepid tap water and suffer Pie Fail.
          2. More on this below. Use less than these amounts and suffer Pie Fail.
          3. See 1 above.
          4. I used to use a food processor. The food processor cuts the butter in uniformly, and I've come to believe that this negatively affects the flakiness of the pastry. My heirloom, never-has-failed-in-umpty-twelve-years recipe tells me to cut the butter into the flour and salt until the particles range in size from rice to navy beans. So you have to use a pastry cutter. Just pull up your socks and do it.
          5. I make my pastry at least a half-day ahead and stick it in the fridge so it can chill properly. You can freeze pastry; just remember to thaw in the fridge. Yes, you have to bang the solidified lump with the rolling pin until it relaxes a little when you go to roll it out, but just pretend it's your boss. Roll out, fit the pastry to the pie plate, trim and flute the edge, and stick it back in the fridge while you prepare the filling and heat up the oven.

Do all of the above; get this (assuming, of course, that you're making
apple pie topped with a streusel)

          And the corollary to the commentary, because, even though it's long-winded, you must be convinced to Use Enough Water, and an example may help: My dad (who reads recipes for fun, but has never, to my knowledge actually made pie), directed me to a recipe for vodka pie crust that apparently made a huge impact when Cook's Illustrated published it in 2007. After my initial reaction (euuuuwwww! Nasty!), I decided to try it, for my dad's sake. Because I am The Good Daughter.
          Much is made, in the comments section of the various blogs where it is reprinted, of three things: 1—That's a LOT of liquid; 2—Wow, very flaky crust; and 3—It's No Fun to roll out.
          So I measured out the vodka and stuck it in the freezer to chill. Then I checked the fridge because I couldn't remember whether we were out of butter or not. We had butter, but not a lot, so I checked the recipe to see how much it needed. It needed three-quarters of a cup of butter and one-half cup shortening, for which I planned to sub butter because why use shortening when there's lovely butter in the world? So I added the amounts up and came up with one and one-quarter cups butter. For two and one-half cups of flour? No wonder it's beastly sticky to roll out!
          It then struck me that my heirloom crust recipe, which has never failed me, has two cups of flour and three-quarters of a cup of butter (a bit more than half the amount called for in the Most Wondrous Vodka Miraculous Pie Crust Magical recipe). It also has exactly the same amount of liquid (in this case, boring old ice water) as the MWVMPMC recipe that everyone seemed to think contained enormous amounts of liquid (one-quarter cup ice water, one-quarter cup chilled vodka).
          And then, it was as dawn breaking over the mountain tops: pie crust fail is directly related to not enough liquid to begin with! I checked my cookbook collection, and found that most pie crust recipes call for half the amount of water for the same amount of ingredients as my heirloom never-fail recipe. No wonder people have problems!
          I never made the Vodka Pie Crust. Mostly because it was my standard recipe with the addition of a little sugar and a whole lot more butter** and subbing vodka for half water, a strategy I fail to see the point of because 1—everyone claims you can't taste the vodka, so why use it in the first place, and 2—if you could taste the vodka, vodka-flavored pie crust just sounds nasty.
          I find the payoff is better if I use the vodka as God intended—in my favorite neighbor's martinis.

*Well, truly, I think about pie almost all the time.

**Actually shortening (but remember I was subbing butter for that), and while ideally I never object to butter, I have discovered that there is such a thing as Too Much Butter in pie crusts. I know, almost impossible to imagine, but there you are.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Nineteen Dollars and Ninety-two Cents

          The other day, I disinterred my set of colored pencils from my art-school days, preparatory to illustrating a story about chickens soon to grace this blog, and I noticed the price sticker on the box.

Once so expensive

           Not quite $20 for a box of 24 colored pencils (the college bookstore had good prices for students), a price I wouldn't even think twice about paying today—in fact, a price I would find quite reasonable today, but I still remember how I agonized over it at the time. 
          We often had no more than $20 left over at the end of the month—more often, we had less. Twenty dollars for school supplies was extravagant in the extreme. Every time I used those pencils, I thought about how very expensive they were, about how irresponsible it was to be spending $20 on something besides groceries, utilities, or the mortgage. 
          The box of pencils sitting on my drawing table was a mute attestation to our lean years, to how hard we worked, to how we stretched our money, to how much we worried about it, to how sometimes it didn't stretch far enough. The fear of Not Making It that lived with me in those years washed over me again as I stared at the now perfectly affordable sum on that price tag.
          That we no longer have those struggles and worries gives me reason to be deeply thankful. However, we are living in lean times, and many of our compatriots are not as fortunate as K and I. 
           This isn't news to anyone who hasn't been living under a rock for the past three years, and here in Kansas City I've noticed an increase in the desire of those of us who can, to give charitably. 
           K and I make our donations to charity, but we also try to practice a community sort of charity, by spending our money in our community, with local businesses who spend their money in this community, instead of sending profits off to regional or national headquarters elsewhere.Working folks, struggling to support their families, deserve our support. Locally-owned businesses, which support the community in their turn, deserve our dollars.
          When you think about charitable giving this year, please consider that it's also charitable to give employment—to a handyman to finish some of the projects languishing on your to-do list; to the fireman who cleans gutters on his days off; to a painter to brighten up that room you've been meaning to get to; to the local hardware store or bookstore or shoe store. 
          When K and I were struggling, the only thing we asked for was a job; we took it from there. If you can, give that opportunity to someone else in this season of thanksgiving.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Holy Antlers, Batman!

Saint Anne, if memory serves, in the Danish National Museum
         The great thing about travel is not how broadening it is, or how much better the smørrebrød tastes Over There than it does in Missouri (go figure), but what a delightful lot of sublimely weird stuff you can find if you look for it.
          As you can see, I do look for it.
          I'm a westerner born and bred, and am not myself unfamiliar with the idiosyncratic use of antlers, usually in furnishings like these lovely items, found in a quick google:

Keen, yes? You can buy it here:

You know you need an antler chandelier:

Maybe a scary bar stool?

          Until I saw the St. Anne icon hanging from the ceiling of the Danish National Museum, though, I'd never seen antlers used in iconography.  I approve. I'm also very fond of the holiness spikes emanating from St. Anne in a kind of "noli me tangere"* nimbus. Even though this icon dates from the 16th or 17th century, its creator has managed to imbue it with Post-Ironic flourishes that charm the jaded palate of the modern museum-goer, turning St. Anne into a kind of backwoods punk beacon. Because who can resist a punk saint? Not me.

*"Touch me not." Good advice, I'd say.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

You Thought It Was Going to Be a Chicken, Didn't You?

         Nope, sorry. I like crows almost as much as chickens. This impressive guy was perched above a shop in Copenhagen. Some very stylish feathering going on there.
         According to J. E. Cirlot's A Dictionary of Symbols,  in Native American cultures, the crow is the great civilizer and the creator of the visible world. Celtic and Germanic tribes assigned it a similar meaning. They are also, of course, associated with death.
          Some species of crows not only use tools, but also construct them. What's not to love about a DIY bird?
         Skål to crows.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Woot! and Woof!

          Casey (Chateau Palos Kansas City Jazz Singer) is now Champion Casey (Ch Chateau Palos Kansas City Jazz Singer)! K handled her to a Best of Winners and Best Opposite Sex over two specials at the Ozarks Kennel Club show this weekend.
          Pooka and I are very proud of them.

Casey with her current fave squeaky, getting groomed for a show.

Chickens are Keen

          And K brought me this chicken from Sao Paolo. He knows I like chickens, even with all their faults.
          Yes, this post did come both out of nowhere and out of sequence (check the date). I often write my posts ahead and tell Blogger when to post them. Blogger thinks it's already November 14, for reasons I cannot begin to fathom. Also for reasons I cannot begin to fathom, Blogger won't let me edit this in any way that takes it down and re-posts it on the real November 14. I could just delete it, wait, and re-post, but you've already seen it, so I'm just going to say that we're turning to a chicken-themed bunch of posts, and I hope you enjoy them, even out of sequence.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Lest We Forget

A bouquet in remembrance
     On the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month in the year 1918, the armistice that ended World War One went into effect. We now celebrate Armistice Day as Veterans Day, and I've always felt the solemn weight of this holiday. It's more common, I know, for Americans to honor the war dead on Memorial Day, but for me the ceremony of remembrance of the dead has always been more appropriate in the dead month of November.
     Some people, when they visit a grave, leave a small stone on it, a testament to the fact that they came and paid their respects. I'd like this post to be my stone on the graves of the fallen: I came; I thought of you; I grieved.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Pretty, Isn't She?

          K brought me this chicken from Rio de Janiero.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

With My Deepest Apologies to William Blake*

Little chicken, who made thee?
Dost thou know who made thee?
Gave thee life, & bid thee peck
At every little spot and speck;
Gave thee feathers of delight;
Gave thee tattoos big and bright;
Gave thee such a stylish tail,

Colored just like ginger ale?
Little chicken, who made thee?
Dost thou know who made thee?

Little chicken, I'll tell thee,
Little chicken, I'll tell thee:
I remember not his name,
My bad memory is my shame.
His aesthetic is a bit askew;
He painted all your feathers blue.
He put boots upon your feet,
I have to say, they're very neat.
Little chicken, I love thee!

Little chicken, I love thee!

*But I am an unreformed sucker for parodies of Songs of Innocence and Songs of Experience

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Fall Bouquet

Early fall: very pretty
Later: stunning
I lost my heart to dogwoods one spring in New Jersey, but I could just as easily have fallen in love with them in a Missouri Autumn. This one is in our yard.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Seeing-eye Dog

We were at a dog show last weekend, reminiscing with a friend about Great Dogs of Blessed Memory. 
And I can never think of those stalwarts without thinking about the man I met one afternoon when I was walking my dog in Tours, France, where we lived at the time.
C’est un Schnauzer!”* the elderly gentleman said as he passed Loki and me.
Oui,” I replied, surprised that a Tourangeau** would recognize my dog’s breed. People were always stopping us, and saying “what breed is that?” or “is that a Fox Terrier?” so to have someone in Tours recognize Loki’s breed was unexpected. (We later learned that Standard Schnauzers are more familiar to Parisians.)
Loki trotted up to Monsieur and greeted him.
Monsieur gave him a warm welcome. “I used to have Schnauzers,” he said, scratching Loki on the back. “I had a very old one; he was blind, and every morning I had to walk him down the stairs into the yard, because he couldn’t see to get down them by himself.
“I got a puppy,” and here he gave me the puppy’s complete pedigree, while I nodded as if I knew the kennel names and recognized the excellence of the bloodlines. “When I brought the puppy home, I was worried about the old dog, because puppies can be rough, and the old dog was blind and very old and perhaps not much of a match for a youngster. But they seemed to get on well together.
“One day I got up to take the old dog down the stairs to the yard, and I couldn’t find him. The puppy was also not in the house. I looked in the yard, and they both were there. The puppy had taken the old blind dog down the stairs to the yard.
“And after that, every morning until he died, the old dog went down the stairs to the yard with his puppy leading him.”
Monsieur petted Loki some more and pronounced him “magnifique.” We chatted about what good dogs Schnauzers are, and then Monsieur took his leave, thanking me for the good memories we had inspired, and leaving me with my own good memories.

*“It’s a Schnauzer!”
            **Resident of the city of Tours.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Drumroll, Please

Best Signage Ever Ever Ever!
          I've been sharing my fave Euro signage (here, here, and here). I love 'em all, but the photo above, from the Bergen, Norway, airport mens' room is the best of the lot. I know it's been reproduced in every design mag known to man, but I have to post it—it's just too good.
          I also have to add, in all honesty, that the designer was not completely triumphantly successful on the women's version:

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Earth, Air, Fire, Water

©Nancy Banks
          I will yap about Iceland to anyone who listens, and many who don't.
          It's just the best.
          It's got great big sky doing interesting things, astonishing cataracts of water flinging themselves off high points just to run down and join the sea, vistas that stretch to the blue mountains back of beyond, and steaming, boiling, erupting, morning-glory-colored, sulfur-scented thermal features that remind me of home (I grew up near Yellowstone Park). But instead of yapping today, I'm sending you to this glorious little video that says it better than I can.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

More Keen Euro Signage

    I've mentioned my fascination with amusing signage here and here. I found this poor fellow in Rome, fighting the endless fight against interdiction. Good luck, signor.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Keen Signage, Euro Version

See the scottie?
          Previously on this blog, I regaled you with an Icelandic grocery store piggy. I love Icelandic grocery story piggy. Not to be outdone, Denmark countered with Danish grocery store Scottie. I love him too.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Artists Rule; Revolutionaries Drool

     Quick—What do you think when you see this image?
     A. That Che dude is too cool for school.
     B. Marxist martyr and hero of the revolution.
     C. Where can I get me a t-shirt like that?
     D. Artists rule the world.

     Me, I go for option D. Because if Alberto Korda hadn't taken the photo that Jim Fitzpatrick turned into a poster, millions of kids searching for an image to demonstrate their ideological superiority while also freaking out the parentals would be without not only a logo, but also the gear to demonstrate their affiliation. Art not only rocks; art rules. Literally.
     I remember the first time I saw this iconic poster. I was very young, and I thought this guy with the idealistic gaze and the fashion-correct beret must be something really special. And he was obviously TOTALLY COOL. Because the image of him is totally cool. So he couldn't not be cool, if a cool  poster featuring his beautific face existed. Right? Okay, okay—show a little compassion; I was very young, and my logic circuits weren't fully hooked up yet.
     Funny, though, how adult people (who presumably have all logic circuits up and functioning) manage to make the same mistake I did as a child.
     If all we had to remember Che by were his writings, he would be pretty much a footnote at this point, because when you look at what he actually accomplished, it turns into Not So Much, Really.
     He genuinely cared about the downtrodden and dispossessed (which is a mark in his favor, and yet you don't see the face of Mother Teresa, who also was all about the downtrodden and dispossessed—and managed to offer many of them more actual aid and comfort—on nearly as many t-shirts as you do the face of Che). He truly believed Marxist revolution would make their lives better. He had one successful Marxist revolution, with Castro in Cuba*, and then kind of a long fizzle. He traveled to Africa and South America, among other countries, fomenting revolution, but it never took. He was executed in Bolivia by the government he was trying, unsuccessfully, to overthrow. And most of us would never know about him  (because let's face it, Marxist revolutionaries are just so last-century) if it weren't for a couple of artists who made him into an icon.
     Korda's photo captured the implacable idealism in his gaze, and Fitzpatrick's rendering stripped out all the unnecessary detail, so what we are left with is an image that conveys pure idealism. I'm sure you can get that same sense from his writings. But so few people actually read them, and so many people saw—and still see—the poster or t-shirt or bobblehead or belt buckle or lighter**. Che would have been a footnote in history—the guy who helped Castro overthrow Batista—without artists.
     Both Korda and Fitzpatrick admired Che, and so it is deeply and deliciously ironic that the idealistic anticapitalist icon they created has gone on to become the idealistic anticapitalist icon of capitalism. Viva la revolucion.

*But you really have to qualify that success, as it's not completely clear that the proletariat in whose name said revolution was undertaken actually profited from it.

**There exists a thing called The Che Store. This makes me giggle. 
The little bat asks Che, "Would you still prefer to die standing than to live forever kneeling?" Che replies, "You know, I really don't care! Today I just wear a trendy t-shirt!"